How we picked
Why you should trust us
We spoke with Jessica Hilburg, associate dean for clinical affairs at NYU College of Dentistry, and Ruchi Sahota, a dentist in Fremont, California, who serves as a media spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA). We also spoke with Chhaju Ram Goyal, co-founder and director of All Sum Research Center (an independent research lab in Canada that tests oral-health-care products), whose name is on much of the scientific research related to water flossers (though, problematically, that research was paid for and designed by none other than Waterpik).
As health and science reporters, we frequently write about goods and services that offer inventive ways to care for ourselves and our bodies, including period underwear and online therapy. We do not floss as much as we should, and anything that can help us out with that is great. But we also know how common it is for pricey newfangled gadgets to be duds.
Who this is for
If you won’t or can’t use dental floss, and you don’t mind spending some cash on a device that might break or get disastrously moldy, consider a water flosser.
Water flossers are an alternative (or an addition) to string floss. They don’t require the same dexterity that string floss does (though you still need fine-motor skills). They can make it easier to clean around braces. And they are arguably more fun to use than string floss.
But they’re also pricier, bulkier, and fussier. Even using a generous 18 inches of string per floss (PDF)—which allows you to use a new section of string for each tooth—you’ll go through under $10 worth of floss per year. By contrast, the least expensive water flossers cost about $40. Plus, you’ll need to clean your water flosser from time to time, but string floss is maintenance-free.
It’s unclear how water flossers compare to regular string floss in terms of cleaning.
Only your own dentist can tell you whether a water flosser is the best choice for your oral hygiene, according to the dentists we spoke with. “Everyone’s teeth are different, everyone’s gums are different,” Ruchi Sahota, a dentist in Fremont, California, said. If you embark on a water-flosser experiment, get feedback from your dentist about how well it’s working.
By and large, it’s unclear how water flossers compare to regular string floss in terms of cleaning. Water flossers that bear a seal from the American Dental Association (ADA) have been evaluated by the organization and are shown to clean teeth better than a toothbrush alone. However, the ADA doesn’t compare water flossing to string flossing. (The ADA isn’t entirely independent of companies that sell dental goods: Member companies pay the organization a fee to evaluate their products. But the ADA designs and controls the evaluations itself, giving us enough peace of mind to trust the seal.) There’s a paper arguing that water flossers are superior to string floss. However, the research was funded and overseen by Waterpik. Thus, we’re skeptical of the results, even though the journal the paper appeared in is peer reviewed by an editorial board of dentists.
Actually, the evidence that even string flossing improves overall oral health isn’t of great quality. But the ADA recommends some sort of daily flossing, and the experts we spoke with likened interdental cleaning to any other routine hygiene step. “There might not be a study, but most people would agree that taking a shower is a good thing,” said Jessica Hilburg, associate dean for clinical affairs at NYU College of Dentistry. Sahota likened it to cleaning out any of the little crevices on your body, like your belly button.
How we picked and tested
There are dozens upon dozens of water flossers available. Because there’s so little research on how well they work, we focused on those that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This certifies safety and efficacy.
That left us with a small field of models to choose from. We initially tested six that represented a mix of corded and cordless (and some different sizes), favoring models that had higher user reviews. For our second round of testing, in 2020, we focused on cordless flossers, narrowing down the testing pool to four different models from three brands: Waterpik, Philips Sonicare, and Panasonic. For a third round of testing, in 2021, we tried two new countertop water flossers from Waterpik.
We pinpointed the features that will have the biggest impact on what it’s like to use a particular water flosser:
- Stream style: Flossers made by Waterpik and Panasonic dispense a continuous stream of water, whereas those from Philips emit a quick, tiny burst of water (or mouthwash) whenever you press a button. It’s unclear which approach is better for your gums. We found that the Waterpik’s continuous stream made the spaces between our teeth feel more thoroughly rinsed. However, as the Waterpik filled our mouths with water, it required us to drool as we water-flossed. The Philips’s quick bursts (the company calls this method “air flossing,” though it still involves a tiny bit of liquid) filled our mouths more slowly, so we had to spit just once, at the end of a cleaning. If you want to use mouthwash or other antibacterial solutions in your water flosser, the Philips style is better because it doesn’t require nearly as much liquid. Yet all of our picks are compatible with mouthwash, which you can dilute in the larger reservoir to avoid waste, if desired.
- Power source: Some flossers need to be plugged into the wall during use, and some are cordless. Some cordless models have a built-in rechargeable battery, and others run on replaceable batteries.
- Counter space: Philips models take up a bit more space than an electric toothbrush. Because of their larger tanks, cordless Waterpik models need as much room as a shampoo bottle. Traditional plug-in and cordless Waterpiks, with their extra-large tanks, take up as much space as a mega roll of plush toilet paper.
Other features that matter (but aren’t as important as those first three) include:
- Settings: The more you can adjust the water stream, the better you can adjust the flosser’s feel to your exact preferences. With the Waterpik and Panasonic models, this means pressure settings, which can vary from two to 10 options, depending on the model. Some Waterpik units even have a massage feature, which oscillates the pressure of the stream. This style made our teeth feel cleaner, but there was more of a learning curve as we figured out how to lean our heads above the sink in order to drool neatly. The Philips flossers let you customize between one and three “bursts” of water per button press, which some may find easier to deal with.
- Tips: All flossers shoot water out of a removable tip, allowing multiple people in a household to use the same device without sharing germs. Some models have holsters for multiple tips, while others have no storage. Some come with a range of tips that vary the stream width, though not all of these are useful—you don’t really need a tip that doubles as a toothbrush.
- Tank size: All flossers theoretically hold enough water to work through your whole mouth. But having a larger tank can be nice because it allows you to focus on any trouble spots (like a stubborn fleck of popcorn) or do a touch-up without having to refill.
No matter which model you pick, buy a water flosser only if it’s under warranty. Across the category, water flossers tend to fail easily: They can leak, wane in strength, or simply give up the ghost. We favored those that have fewer complaints. But your best option is to buy something with a long warranty (two or three years is typical), and be prepared to file a claim if needed.
If you want a reliable flosser, stick with string.
We rotated through our selection of finalist flossers for several weeks (the experience of using them was so satisfying and novel that one tester water-flossed upwards of four times a day). On top of that, we spoke with other Wirecutter staff members who personally use and like water flossers, and we read through many customer reviews of these devices.
Our pick: Waterpik Ion
The Waterpik Ion is the best countertop water flosser. It cleans mouths thoroughly, and it is highly adjustable. And, thanks to its cordless charging base, the Ion can be used in all types of bathrooms—regardless of whether there’s an outlet nearby. The removable charging cord can be stored anywhere and brought out every few weeks to recharge the flosser. The Ion features a strong, steady water stream. And it has a larger-than-average, 26-ounce water tank (with a wide, easy-to-refill mouth), which holds enough water to floss between each tooth and then some.
Like many Waterpik countertop flossers, the Ion has 10 pressure settings, so you can find the perfect water-stream strength. This model also comes with six tips that offer different stream widths. But unlike other flossers, the Ion has a magnetized handle cradle, which makes it easier to store the handle and the cord that connects it to the reservoir compactly.
The Ion takes up less counter space than other countertop flossers we’ve considered, including our runner-up pick, the Waterpik Aquarius. (The Aquarius could be compared in size to a mega-roll of toilet paper, whereas the Ion is closer in size to a regular roll.) Because with the Ion you’re not tied to an outlet, you can move the device wherever on the counter you prefer.
As with most flossers that produce a constant flow of water, you’ll have to learn how to artfully drool while using the Ion.
The six included tips offer different widths of water streams, though you probably wouldn’t use most of them on a regular basis. Photo: Michael Murtaugh
The curly cord that attaches the flosser tips to the wand and water reservoir is about 34 inches long, which we found to be plenty. Photo: Michael Murtaugh
The Ion is one of the easiest water flossers to refill after each use or so (a requirement of all flossers) and to wipe out regularly: It has a wide, dishwasher-safe reservoir that is easily removed and that doesn’t have any hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. The tank lid attaches to the unit and flips up, so there’s nothing to set aside while you fill and clean the tank. It holds around 90 seconds’ worth of water, which gives you plenty of time (and then some) to floss your entire mouth. One tester found they could do a quick floss in about 30 seconds; if they spent more than a minute, their teeth felt fantastically clean.
The Ion comes in two colors (black and white) and is warrantied for three years. If our pick is unavailable and you prefer a countertop flosser with cordless charging, consider the Waterpik Ion Professional, which is nearly the same model, but with a slightly smaller water tank.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Although Waterpik claims the Ion can last for a month between charges, we needed to recharge the device every three weeks or so when water flossing every day. Even so, we found this model to be a worthwhile upgrade over having to keep a countertop flosser plugged in at all times in order to run it.
Like most water flossers, the Ion is slightly noisy (similar to electric razors and many bathroom electronics), but not terribly so.
Because of its continuous stream, the Ion (like all of our picks) involves a learning curve. That stream means your mouth fills up with water pretty quickly. You’ll either have to pause to spit several times during a flossing session or learn to let it dribble out (even the official Waterpik literature features an image of a person straight-up drooling). And if you pull the nozzle out of your mouth too quickly, you’ll send water spraying across the bathroom.
Runner-up: Waterpik Aquarius
If plugging in is not an issue, the Waterpik Aquarius is a solid water flosser that offers a similar experience to that of our pick, the Ion. The Aquarius made our mouths feel totally clean, thanks to its strong, continuous stream (which is similar to the Ion’s). This model also ties with the Ion for having the most stream pressure settings and tips of all the flossers we tested. So the Aquarius gives you the best chance of finding the pressure, pulse, and stream size that feels good to you.
With the Aquarius, there’s no charging system or batteries to contend with because it plugs into the wall via a 4-foot electrical cord. (Though, unlike the Ion, this model must remain plugged in to operate.) Although there are more reports of it breaking down or becoming caked with mold than we’d like, in three years of research and long-term testing, we’ve found the Aquarius to be a reliable device.
Though the Aquarius is not quite as easy to clean as the Ion, it does have a wide, dishwasher-safe reservoir that holds plenty of water for at least a single flossing session. This model takes up more counter space than the Ion and many other water flossers we considered. As with all of our picks, with the Aquarius you’ll be drooling a lot because of the constant water flow. Unlike our other picks, this model has two modes (for a regular “floss” stream or a “massage” mode, which shoots pulses of water), and it comes with seven different tips (one more than the Ion comes with).
The floss mode delivers a continuous stream of water, which we found to be the most effective for cleaning. On the strongest setting, it actually made one of our tester’s gums bleed, possibly because they were not used to flossing. Some water-flosser manuals acknowledge a week or two of bleeding as part of the “training period,” when your gums get used to being power-washed.
The massage mode is a pulsing stream. This mode also felt like it cleaned well, and it filled our mouths with water at a slower rate, which in turn made for less awkward drooling. The massage mode could be helpful for folks who prefer a gentler stream.
The Aquarius comes with seven basic tips offering different widths of water streams (though you probably wouldn’t use most of them on a regular basis). Unlike the Ion, this model has a spot next to the tank to store tips; this is handy if you want to share the flosser with family members or switch between a couple of tips yourself. The curly cord that connects the handle to the tank is about 33 inches long, an inch shorter than the Ion’s.
Like the Ion, the Aquarius comes with a three-year warranty. It is available in five colors: black, white, blue, gray, and orchid (a purple hue).
Also great: Waterpik Cordless Express
The Waterpik Cordless Express is a great compact option for people who desire a smaller device, for either portability or space-saving purposes. As with our other Waterpik picks, you’ll drool heavily when using this flosser. But unlike our countertop picks, this one is fully waterproof—you can use it in the shower. We found this extremely helpful both for remembering to floss and limiting cleanup (what better place to drool on oneself than in the shower?).
If you have hand-grip issues, a cordless water flosser may not be right for you. Because it’s an all-in-one device, with the water reservoir attached to the handheld sprayer, this model is much wider and heavier to hold than our other picks. When filled with water, the Cordless Express weighs more than a pound—versus our top-pick handle’s single ounce. The body of the Cordless Express features a useful grip pattern to help you avoid dropping the device, but people with smaller hands may have difficulty holding its 5-inch circumference.
With just two settings, the Cordless Express is much simpler than our other picks. It holds enough water or mouthwash (or other antibacterial solutions) for 30 seconds of spray, which is enough to complete a single floss. It’s extremely easy to fill, however, so if you feel the need to floss again, you can be back to drooling in mere seconds.
The Cordless Express uses three AA batteries, instead of plugging into the wall with a charging cord, so you’ll want to have extra batteries on hand (or use rechargeable ones). Removing and replacing the batteries is an easy process, as is cleaning the device. And, as with our other picks, this model’s water reservoir can go in the dishwasher; weekly cleaning is recommended.
This model comes with two tips—far fewer compared with our other picks. But the Cordless Express is compatible with all other Waterpik tips.
The Cordless Express has a one-year warranty (much shorter than that of our trusty corded picks), and it comes in white or black.
What to look forward to
Other good water flossers
If you can’t find the regular Waterpik Ion in stock, consider the rechargeable Waterpik Ion Professional. This model has the same 5.5-inch footprint and 34-inch flosser cord as our pick, the Ion, but it holds 23 ounces of water (instead of 26 ounces).
If you’re looking for a traditional corded water flosser for a child, or for an adult with smaller hands or dexterity issues,Waterpik’s Water Flosser For Kids may be a worthy compact option. Its neon green coloring isn’t exactly subtle, but this flosser has the same per-minute pulses and flow rate as our picks. However, its highest pressure option is lower than that of our picks (80 psi versus 100 psi). And this model also offers only 60 seconds of flossing capacity (our picks offer 90 seconds) and a shorter warranty (two years versus three). We found this flosser’s smaller, thinner handle easy to grip, but it does not have a rotating tip option or an on/off switch. Since this one is meant to be refilled after every use, it does not come with a lid.
Countertop water flossers
In our experience, the Waterpik Ultra cleans just as well as the Ion and the Aquarius. But its lid isn’t attached to the tank (which is less preferable for regular maintenance).
We didn’t test the Waterpik Sidekick Water Flosser, despite its pluses. We like that this corded model is smaller than other countertop Waterpiks, can fit in a small travel case, and looks quite nice (especially the black-and-copper model). But, unfortunately, it comes with only one tip, which cannot be changed (making it a little gross for use by multiple people). Also, it has just five pressure settings, and, at the time of publication, the Sidekick was nearly double the price of the Aquarius.
The Waterpik Classic Professional Water Flosser, which we also did not test, is similar in function and size to our top pick and costs a bit less. But it has only six pressure settings and comes with just two styles of tips. There’s also no cover on the tank lid.
We chose not to test the Instagram-popular Fresh Pro Flosser because of its exorbitant cost and lack of the ADA Seal.
Cordless water flossers
The Panasonic EW-DJ10-W Oral Irrigator is a well-reviewed water flosser. But due to its collapsible design, it tends to stay damp for a while, which, well, dampens the overall experience. It also looks and feels a little cheaper than our cordless pick, despite being the same price. However, if the Waterpik Cordless Express is unavailable, the EW-DJ10 isn’t a completely awful substitute. It has a two-year warranty.
We used to recommend the Philips Sonicare AirFloss Ultra, a unique water flosser that expels quick, tiny bursts of water or mouthwash, instead of a constant stream of water like our picks. After finding a bevy of disappointing reviews citing poor performance, however, we no longer recommend it.
Jessica Hilburg, associate dean for clinical affairs at NYU College of Dentistry, phone interview, September 25, 2018
Ruchi Sahota, dentist and media spokesperson for the American Dental Association, phone interview, October 15, 2018
Chhaju Ram Goyal, BDS, director at All Sum Research Center, phone interview, October 16, 2018
Federal Government, ADA Emphasize Importance of Flossing and Interdental Cleaners, American Dental Association, August 4, 2016
About your guides
Nancy Redd is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering everything from Santa hats to bath bombs. She is also a GLAAD Award–nominated on-air host and a New York Times best-selling author. Her latest picture book, The Real Santa, follows a determined little Black boy's journey to discover what the jolly icon truly looks like.
Get this Waterpik cordless water flosser for less at Amazon today
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If you've been thinking of upgrading your dental care routine, Amazon has an offer you're going to want to check out. Today, Waterpik's cordless water flosser is on sale for a sweet discount.
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The online shopping giant is offering Waterpik's cordless rechargeable flosser for as low as $62.18 in the blue colorway, down from its $79.99 list price. (Prices have fluctuated today, sinking as low as $55.36 on the black version, but $62.18 is still a bargain at 22% off.)
While we haven't tested this rechargable model yet, our tester raved about the brand's corded Aquarius model (from $65.35), which came with a number of useful tips and emitted a "super-fine stream" of water with adjustable pressure.
Waterpik said that this model shares some similarities with the one we loved: electronic pressure control means you can adjust the pressure to low, medium and high water flow, and it comes with four attachable tips, one of which can rotate for 360-degree coverage. The cordless version is designed to be even more unobstrusive than the model we tested, with a smaller footprint. It's also waterproof, has a rapid-charge magnetic charger and comes with a storage case and a travel bag. The flosser has an overall 4.5 out of 5-star customer rating, with more than 10,000 individual 5-star ratings. Shoppers praised its long-lasting battery life and customizable water pressure.
If it sounds like this is what your tooth and gum care routine has been missing, act now—because this deal won't last!
Get the Waterpik Cordless Water Flosser at Amazon from $62.18 (Save $10 to $17.81)
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Best Cordless Water Flosser
What are Cordless Water Flossers?
Cordless water flossers are handheld dental devices that spray water between your teeth in constant pulses. They offer a convenient, quick, and effective way to floss your teeth daily.
Countertop water flossers (corded models) require power to work. These devices are also larger, take up counter space, and are not easy to travel with.
Portable water flossers (cordless models) do not require power. They are rechargeable, compact, easy to pack, and don’t take up counter space.
Why Trust Us?
Our team has put together a list of the best cordless water flossers available. We took into account the:
- Battery life
- Quality of features
- Reviews from multiple sites
- The trustworthiness of the brand
- Pressure modes
- Overall value for the money
Some water flossers have the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. These water flossers are effective in preventing gum disease, cavities, and other oral health conditions.
Devices that currently have the ADA Seal of Acceptance include Philips and WaterpikWater Flossers. We chose the best flossers with this seal of acceptance, which you will read more about below.
Other devices included in this article do not have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. However, after hours of research, our team determined they were still effective in removing plaque and preventing common oral health conditions (e.g., cavities and gingivitis).
We determined each brand's reputability by speaking with company leaders, reading hundreds of customer reviews, and ensuring they provide quality customer service.
Water flossers have been shown to reduce gum bleeding, gingivitis, probing pocket depth, and calculus buildup on teeth.- NCBI
Dental Water Flossers vs. Traditional Floss
Unlike traditional flossing, water flossers use high pressure water to remove plaque and food particles between your teeth. Water flossers provide some additional benefits over traditional dental floss. For example, they offer a deeper clean with the use of water, jet tips, and different cleaning modes.
Water flossers also have 360-degree rotatable nozzles, allowing for a more effortless clean in hard-to-reach areas. This helps prevent plaque buildup on your molars, gum line, and keeps your entire mouth fresh.
PROS of water flossers
- They remove more plaque between your teeth and along the gum line
- They massage your gums, which helps keep them healthier
- They do not make your gums hurt
- They make it easy to clean between braces, implants, and bridges
- They are convenient
- They clean between your teeth very quickly
- They are ideal for people with arthritis or limited mobility (dexterity)
pros of string floss
- It is cost-effective. Water flossers are more expensive than traditional string floss. They cost between $49.99 and $139.99. String floss and floss sticks typically only cost a couple of dollars.
- Flossing manually enables you to clean each tooth in an up and down motion, moving the floss between the teeth.
One study found that water flossers were 29 percent more effective than floss for overall plaque removal.- NCBI
What to Look for in a Cordless Water Flosser
Before purchasing a cordless water flosser, it is essential to look for the following features to ensure you are buying the best product:
- Long battery life (rechargeable or battery-operated)
- 30+ second flossing timer
- 360-degree tip rotation for a deep clean
- A variety of flossing tips
- Waterproof design
- Leakproof design
How to Use a Water Flosser
Using a water flosser is a straightforward process:
- Fill the reservoir with warm water
- Press down firmly on the device’s base
- Choose a tip and click it into the handle
- Start with the lowest pressure setting and then place the tip into your mouth while leaning over the sink so you don’t get water everywhere
- Turn the unit on and close your mouth just enough to prevent water splashes
- Let the water flow from your mouth into the sink below
- Aim the tip at your gum line
- When complete, turn the device off and press the “eject” button to remove the tip
5 Best Cordless Water Flossers 2021
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Flosser waterproof water
We have it not big - the other bank is 50-70 meters away. Reeds grew along the coast, in some places interrupted by small bald patches of the beach. There was no sand, just a place trampled underfoot, turfy soil. In some places there were other couples having a rest, several fishermen saw along.
The way.Best Water Flossers in 2020 - Top 5 Water Flosser Picks
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